Happy Birthday, Butters!

Butters wakes up on the morning of September 11th, 2011. He rubs his eyes and sits up. After yawning and stretching, he suddenly looks excited.

"Oh boy! September eleventh, the best day of the year!" cheers Butters as he hops out of bed. He goes over to his dresser and begins to pull out his clothes: a teal shirt and simple green pants. As he does this, he sings, "Happy birthday to me! Happy birthday to me! Happy birthday, dear Butters! Happy birthday to me!"

A few minutes later, Butters prances down the stairs, thinking out loud. "I sure hope Mom is in a happier mood this year. She always gets so down and gloomy on my birthday."

In the living room, Linda and Stephen Stotch are sitting on the couch, watching the news. Linda looks very tense, and she holds a box of tissues on her lap. The news report is, of course, a look back on the terrorist attacks of 2001.

"Ten years ago today, Al-Quaida perpetrated the deadliest foreign attack on American civilians in the nation's history. Nearly three-thousand innocent people were killed in the plane hijackings and the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon."

Linda's face contorts as she tries not to cry. Stephen glances at her and rests his hand on her shoulder for support. Just then, Butters gallops into the room.

"Hi Mom! Hi Dad!"

"Hello, Butters," says Stephen seriously, patting his wife gently on the back.

Butters walks in front of the television and grins at his parents. "You know, today's a special day."

Stephen looks at his wife, whose lip is quivering. "Yes… Yes, it certainly is."

Butters looks at his parents expectantly. When neither says anything else, he adds, "Ten years ago today, something really exciting happened. Something big, that changed your lives forever."

Linda bursts into tears and buries her face in her hands.

Stephen glares at his son. "Butters!" he yells sternly. "You know how upset your Mom gets about poor Aunt Martha!"

Butters looks shocked. "Oh, oh, I'm sorry, Mom. I didn't mean to make you sad. I was talking about my birthday, is all."

Stephen sighs. "Yes, happy birthday, Butters. Go get your mother some tea. It's the least you could do after you upset her like this."

Butters hangs his head, looking guilty. "Yes, sir." He walks out of the room to prepare tea for his mother.

Linda continues to cry into a handful of tissue paper. Stephen puts his right arm around Linda's shoulders and pats her arm with his left hand.

"I'm sorry, Linda. Butters didn't mean to upset you," he says. "He just forgets how difficult this day is for you."

"Martha!" Linda sobs. Her eyes are smudged with mascara. She lets out a few hysterical breaths, and then she blows her nose.

"Linda, darling, please don't cry. Martha… Martha is in heaven now." Although Stephen tries to console her, his voice breaks as he holds back tears.

"Th-that day," Linda stutters, "w-was the worst day of my life."

Linda and Stephen recall the day, ten years ago, when Linda's sister Martha passed on. They were in the maternity ward at the hospital. Linda, heavily pregnant, was reclined in a hospital bed, dressed in a gown. A doctor stood at the end of the bed, leaning in between Linda's open legs and monitoring her progress. Stephen, wearing light blue scrubs, sat beside her and held her hand through the labor pains.

"You're doing great, Linda," said Stephen encouragingly as his wife breathed loudly through her mouth and moaned.

"It's crowning," the doctor announced, reaching in to help with the birth. "Keep up the breathing, Mrs. Stotch."

Stephen beamed at his wife. "It's almost here, Linda," he said joyfully, squeezing her hand. "The baby's almost here! This is the happiest day of our lives!"

Just then, the broadcast on the television in the corner changed its tone. "Breaking news!" declared an anchorman, listening closely to his headset. "We have just received word that… that a plane has crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York."

Linda and Stephen stared at the screen, and Linda sat up sharply.

"A fire is spreading through the building… Emergency personal from all over the city have been sent to help with the rescue."

Linda, looking pale, looked at her husband. "My sister Martha works at the World Trade Center. She's on the hundredth floor!"

Stephen paused, then he said, "But doesn't Martha work in the South Tower? I'm sure she'll be fine."

Linda let out a sigh of relief. "You're right. She works in the other building. I shouldn't worry."

"Wait, I'm getting an update on the situation at the Trade Center." The anchor put a hand to his ear and furrowed his brow as he listened to the news coming in over his headset. "Apparently, there's been… Oh God. Uh, I'm receiving information that a second plane has crashed into the World Trade Center. This time, it appears that the South Tower was hit."

Linda put a hand over her mouth, gaping at the television in shock and horror. "Oh my God!" she gasped. "Martha!"

Stephen looked at Linda apprehensively. After a moment of shocked silence, Linda burst into tears.

"Linda… Linda, I'm sure everything will be fine," Stephen said slowly, although he didn't seem convinced.

Linda gasped for breath a few times before sobbing, "Everything will not be fine! She works on the hundredth floor, Stephen! Oh my God! Martha!"

Linda continued to cry, and Stephen attempted to console her. Meanwhile, the doctor stood back up, holding a cooing baby Butters with the umbilical cord still intact.

"Congratulations! It's a boy!"

Stephen glared at the doctor. "Put that thing away," he uttered. "Can't you see that my wife is grieving?"

"Martha!" Linda shrieked mournfully.

Now, Linda cries loudly into fistfuls of tissue paper. "Th-that day w-was the worst day of my life!"

"Shh, Linda, darling, you have to be strong for Butters," Stephen pleads in a whisper.

Meanwhile, Butters stands on a stool in the kitchen, sprinkling some sugar into a blue mug of tea. He sings to himself cheerfully as he stirs the sugar.

"Loo, loo, loo, I got some apples. Loo, loo, loo, you got some too. Loo, loo, loo, let's get together. I know what we can loo, loo, loo."

He takes the mug, hops off the stepstool, and walks back into the living room to give the tea to Linda, who is finally beginning to calm down.

"Thanks, Butters," she says in a tense voice as she raises the mug to her lips. But before she takes a sip, she freezes, staring at the blue mug. She purses her lips, holding back tears.

"Mom? What is it, Mom?" Butters asks.

Linda's face becomes contorted as she fights back tears. "It… it's… it's just that Martha was wearing a blue jacket the last time I saw her," she answers in a quivering voice.

Stephen immediately tries to remedy the situation. "Don't worry, dear, Butters will fix it. Butters, go get your mother a new mug for her tea."

"Yes, sir!" Butters says, and he hurries to the kitchen. A few seconds later, he returns with a purple mug. "There. That's better, ain't it, Mom?"

Linda stares at the new mug with wide eyes. Then she whispers, "Purple was Martha's favorite color!" She begins to wail again.

Stephen stands up, glaring at his son. "Couldn't you show just a little bit of consideration for your mother's feelings? If you think we won't ground you just because it's your birthday… well, then you have another think coming, mister!"

Butters looks down and kicks at the ground with one of his feet. "Aw, shucks. I'm sorry, Dad."

"Don't apologize to me, Butters," Stephen says sternly, his hands on his hips. "You should apologize to your mother!"

Butters stops toeing the ground, but he doesn't look up. "I'm sorry, Mom."

"That's better," says Stephen. Then, pointing at the stairs, he continues, "Now why don't you go to your room and think about how upset you've made your poor mother?"

"Okay," Butters sighs. He trudges up the stairs under the harsh gaze of his father, enters his room, and closes the door.

Once he's alone, Butters sighs and sits down on his bed. "Every year, it's the same," he mutters to himself. "I'm startin' to wonder if my parents don't really like September eleventh at all."

Everyone knows it's Butters! (That's me!)